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Twitter Tip #9 – Never Insult A Man And His Cat

Yesterday I wrote about an interview and photo shoot USA Weekend published about Twitter co-founder Biz Stone where, once again, and in my opinion (natch), he showed his usual lack of understanding about what Twitter is and how best to use it.

Biz certainly isn’t alone in this regard – it seems that nobody at the top of Twitter really knows exactly what they’ve created. Maybe that’s not particularly unusual, as CEOs around the world often display an alarming lack of knowledge about their products. But social media has introduced a different side to the world, with different expectations and standards, and nobody can accuse Mark Zuckerberg of not getting Facebook.

Often the richest evidence about Twitter’s naivety materialises in the people they recommend as must-follows. They’re almost always celebrities, power-users and other ultra-popular profiles who already have millions of fans in place. They certainly don’t need an official assist from Twitter, and so these tips tend to come over as little more than sucking up. Twitter could, and should, use these interviews to draw attention to accounts that really matter, and actually need the spotlight, and not just pay lip service to a privileged few just in case they’re thinking about moving on.

One of Biz’s suggestions was Sockington, the most popular cat ‘on’ Twitter, who boasts almost 1.5 million followers whom he entertains with his whimsical updates. In my article (and as above) I proposed that Sockington probably wasn’t the best example of a must-follow from Biz, but neither were Conan O’Brien or Shaquille O’Neal, either. But that wasn’t really the point, as I was actually being critical about Twitter, not Sockington per se.

The kitty wasn’t happy.

And neither were his army of fans, many of whom took to the comments section in my post and expressed their dismay that I would write such things about their beloved cat.

Most of the responses were civil – others, less so. Here’s the thing – I’m a cat lover too. I own a cat. I’ve owned many cats. This wasn’t about cats. It was about Twitter.

Here’s another thing – Sockington, the cat, and Sockington, the Twitter profile, are both owned by Jason Scott who, amongst other projects, is the creator of Textfiles.com, a website that preserves ASCII files that pertain to the history of online bulletin boards. Scott writes Sockington’s updates (paws and keyboards don’t mix), and the style is generally friendly and fun.

It was with some surprise, then, when Scott himself lashed out at me on Twitter for the things I wrote, both in the things that he said but also (predominately) in the manner in which said them.

I mean, seriously?

This went on for a few hours, as Jason started retweeting and replying to similar remarks from his followers and generally behaving like a lunatic.

Remember, this is the same guy who writes stuff like this.

We all have bad days, and I’m hoping that’s what this was, because otherwise something crazy took place. And if that reaction was typical, then the dichotomy between Scott’s two accounts is pretty shocking.

I get it, Jason. You love your cat. And so do hundreds of thousands of other people. And I’m sorry if you thought what I wrote somehow trampled on that affection. Believe it or not, that wasn’t my intention, nor was I trolling (or giving two hoots about SEO) or looking to provoke this kind of a response. This wasn’t about you, but I apologise if what I said caused offense, although I’m still struggling to see what was so bad.

So, come on – don’t you think you might have over-reacted just a teeny, tiny bit?

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